Report finds current road, bridge conditions are impairing economic growth in rural areas

Updated May 21, 2015
Credit: Wikipedia CommonsCredit: Wikipedia Commons

Research by The Road Improvement Program (TRIP) finds that 15 percent of major rural roads in the U.S. are in poor condition, and 1 in 10 rural bridges are functionally obsolete, conditions that “slow the pace of economic growth in rural America.”

“America’s rural transportation network plays a key role in the success and quality of life for U.S. farmers and ranchers,” said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “But deteriorated and deficient rural roads and bridges are hindering our nation’s agricultural goods from reaching markets at home and abroad.”

In the report, TRIP said rural quality of life and the health of the rural economy depend on the quality of the transportation system. To a greater extent, the group makes the point that the rural transportation system in the U.S. is the “first and last link in the supply chain from farm to market while supporting the tourism industry and enabling the production of energy, food and fiber.”

Janet Kavinoky, executive director of Transportation and Infrastructure for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the goods and services produced in and distributed from rural areas are “vital” to the overall national economy. “Years of inadequate transportation funding have left a deficient rural transportation network that does not meet present-day demands,” Kavinoky said. “Improving the transportation system will create jobs today and leave a lasting asset for future generations.”

TRIP also found an additional 39 percent of major rural roads are in mediocre or fair condition, and 11 percent of rural bridges are structurally deficient. Another interesting static in rural areas is a traffic fatality rate of 2.20 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, vs. a rate of 0.75 per 100 million vehicle miles for all other roads.

Top 10 States: Rural Pavement in Poor Condition

1. Michigan         37%

2. Rhode Island  32%

3. Hawaii             31%

4. Idaho               31%

5. Kansas             30%

6. West Virginia 29%

7. Oklahoma       27%

8. Maine              26%

9. Alaska             25%

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10. New Mexico  25%

Top 10 States: Structurally Deficient Rural Bridges

1. Pennsylvania  25%

2. Rhode Island  23%

3. Iowa                 22%

4. South Dakota 21%

5. Oklahoma       19%

6. Nebraska        18%

7. North Dakota 17%

8. Louisiana        16%

9. Maine              15%

10. Missouri        15%

Top 10 States: Rural Traffic Fatality Rate*

1. Connecticut                3.57

2. South Carolina           3.40

3. Florida                         3.20

4. Montana                     3.09

5. Arizona                       3.01

6. California                   2.83

7. West Virginia             2.61

8. Arkansas                    2.58

9. Georgia                       2.55

10. Oklahoma                 2.52

*per 100 million vehicles


“The safety and quality of life in America’s small communities and rural areas and the health of the nation’s economy ride on our rural transportation system. The nation’s rural roads provide crucial links from farm to market, move manufactured and energy products, and provide access to countless tourism, social and recreational destinations,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP.  “But, with long-term federal transportation legislation stuck in political gridlock in Washington, economic growth in America’s rural communities could be threatened.  Funding the modernization of our rural transportation system will create jobs and help ensure long-term economic development and quality of life in rural America.”